Nossa Cidade (“Our City”), from TheCityFix Brasil, explores critical questions for building more sustainable cities. Every month features a new theme. Leaning on the expertise of researchers and specialists in WRI’s sustainable urban mobility team in Brazil, the series will feature in depth articles on urban planning, sustainable mobility, gender, resilience, and other key themes for sparking more sustainable development in our cities.
In an interview with TheCityFix Brasil, Felipe Calderon, former President of Mexico and President of the Global Climate Economy Commission, emphasized the role that sustainable urban growth plays in climate change mitigation: “We need to build new urban infrastructure and create more compact and well connected cities. The way we build our cities and transportation systems will determine our economic performance, residents’ quality of life, and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced over the next decades.”
The world is taking notice of this urgency. The role of cities in tackling climate change will be will be just one of the issues discussed in September at the International Congress Cities & Transport. Some of the voices that we’ll hear from include Sam Adams, former mayor of Portland (USA); Rachel Biderman, director of WRI Brazil; Nelson Franco, climate change manager for the City Hall of Rio de Janeiro; and Délio Malheiros, vice mayor and environment secretary of Belo Horizonte.
Concrete Steps for a Low-Carbon Economy
Created and released by the Global Economy and Climate Commission two weeks ago, “Seizing the Global Opportunity: Partnerships for Better Growth and a Better Climate” outlines a global action plan with 10 recommendations for combating climate change without sacrificing economic growth.
1. Accelerate Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities
Cities must commit to developing and implementing low carbon development strategies by 2020 that prioritize investment in mass transit and renewable energy. In addition, decision makers should invest in compact and connected urban development. Doing so will help create jobs, reduce pollution and congestion, and improve residents’ quality of life. (For more on compact and connected cities, check out our posts on check out our posts on TOD).
2. Restore and Protect Agricultural and Forest Landscapes and Increase Agricultural Productivity
Governments, financial institutions, investors, and the private sector must work together to boost financing for sustainable land use. Doing so will is critical for achieving the global goal of ending deforestation and recovering at least 500 million hectares of degraded areas by 2030. Sustainable land use also yields tremendous long-term economic payouts.
3. Invest at Least $1 Trillion a Year in Clean Energy
To reduce the cost of clean energy and catalyze private investment, national and multilateral development banks need to strengthen collaboration with governments and the private sector. They should also establish financial commitments, aiming for $1 trillion of investment annually in energy efficiency by 2030.
4. Raise Energy Efficiency Standards to the Global Best
The G20 should increase energy efficiency standards in key sectors by 2025. The G20 should also develop a global platform for improving these standards and making them transparent.
5. Implement Effective Carbon Pricing
Both developed and emerging economies should commit to implementing or strengthening carbon taxes by 2020 and ending subsidies for fossil fuels. Establishing firm carbon prices allows countries to guide sustainable consumption, investment, infrastructure, and innovation; the funds generated by this tax could be allotted for social welfare programs or allow for reductions in other taxes.
6. Ensure New Infrastructure is Climate-Smart
Developed and developing countries alike need to ensure that national policies and goals align with larger climate targets. These principles should be in accordance with the Global Initiative G20 and should be used to guide investment strategies in the public and private sectors.
7. Galvanize Low-Carbon Innovation
Emerging and developed countries need to start working together and with the private sector to establish partnerships for researching and developing low-carbon technologies.
8. Drive Low-Carbon Growth through Business and Investor Action
Companies should establish short-term and long-term emission reduction targets and work to implement these plans. Major industrial sectors should pay attention to how decarbonization impacts the global economy.
9. Raise Ambition to Reduce International Aviation and Maritime Emissions
The massive emissions from shipping and aviation must be reduced. Implementing efficiency standards for aircraft and establishing fuel efficiency baselines in the maritime sector are solid first steps in addressing two heavy-polluting industries.
10. Phase down the Use of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
Hydrofluorocarbons —used as refrigerants, solvents, fire protection, and insulating foams— are the fastest growing greenhouse gases in the world, growing at a rate of 10 percent to 15 percent per year. Investing in greener alternatives will not only help combat this major source of emissions, but pave the way for cheaper materials.
Given the growing level of emissions from urban activities, cities are where change must happen. By adopting a “3C” model of development — connected, compact, and coordinated — and following the strategies above, cities can foster economic development while simultaneously mitigating climate change.